Ever find yourself wishing you could be more straightforward? Paradoxically, it can feel like anything but. Maybe you’re worried about conflict or struggle with assertiveness or insecurity.
But as you’re about to discover, it’s a path that thankfully just gets simpler. This article will show you it’s not as risky as you think, with some surprising benefits. There are 4 easy strategies you can use. And if you’ve had a hard time being straightforward, it can actually help you in changing that.
If you ever find yourself wishing you could be more straightforward, keep on reading. I’m about to break it all down for you.
What does it mean to be more straightforward?
In different contexts, the word “straightforward” can mean various things:
But in a human context, this is what I understand “being straightforward” to mean:
- Being authentic to yourself.
- Sharing what’s truly on your mind.
- Sharing the necessary information to reach a particular aim.
- Using the right words to accurately express an idea.
- Being easy to understand by others.
The tips below will address all the above goals.
Why being more straightforward is beneficial
If you struggle with being straightforward, you probably worry about the consequences. You’re not alone — one study found most people believe others will react negatively to honesty. Therefore, they try to avoid sharing what they think.
However, the same study found many surprising benefits:
- Being honest is much more enjoyable than we expect.
- It fosters much better social connections between people.
- It leads to greater well-being even a week after the conversation.
- It doesn’t damage relationships as much as we expect.
- Others react more positively than we expect.
So while your worries are perfectly understandable, don’t judge being straightforward until you try it.
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My journey to being more straightforward
A friend recently shocked me by telling me he admires how “straightforward” I am. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of being straightforward. I was just baffled by the notion that I could possibly be mistaken for such a person. It was as if someone had told me, “I love how much you look like a leprechaun!”
I might have been a little influenced by how messy my mind feels. At any given moment, I could simultaneously juggle dinner ideas, book analyses, and wondering how I might have died in a past life.
I’ve also been a hopeless people-pleaser, perfectionist, and over-thinker. This means I had a lot of feelings that were both contradictory and counterproductive. And they certainly did not come out in a straightforward way.
But perhaps this is a big reason why, I feel, I have been able to become much more straightforward. I have repeatedly felt the frustration of not being understood. Of having my needs or feelings trampled over. Or of people treating my boundaries like a crosswalk.
And eventually, you realize it all comes down to one thing. You are responsible for all those things. If you don’t communicate them clearly, how can others respect them? So at some point — what I think my friend picked up on — my frustration started pushing my thoughts and feelings out, so I could make myself heard.
This is the point where things can get tricky. Built-up resentment can lead to knee-jerk reactions or emotional vomit. This can be mistaken for being “straightforward” — after all, you’re sharing all your feelings, right?
You can tell people about every little feeling you have — but that’s not necessarily productive. In my opinion, being straightforward includes knowing what feelings to share. Which feelings are useful for others to know? What should you share to get the outcomes you want? (In my case, for people to respect my boundaries and understand me — rather than think, “Gee, Silvia is a real nutcase”).
4 steps to be more straightforward
If you’ve read any of my past articles, you might have noticed my proclivity for comprehensive articles. Some even span several dozen tips. But, in the spirit of embodying this topic, I will strive to practice what I preach (and give my friend’s observation a fighting chance at being correct).
So, here are 4 simple steps for how to be more straightforward, driven by my own experience.
1. Consider the stakes
As I shared in my own experience above, painful experiences can be a powerful motivator for change. Since you’ve landed on this page, I’m guessing you’ve had quite a few. Consider if you’ve experienced situations such as these:
- You felt conflicting desires and weren’t sure which one to follow.
- You wanted to come across a certain way and so tried to change your behavior. It felt awkward and out of character.
- You felt it was “wrong” to share your feelings even though they were very intense. You tried to stifle them.
- You were afraid of a person’s reaction. You tried to communicate something indirectly or hoped they would just get the hint.
- You weren’t able to share what truly mattered, creating misunderstandings or conflict.
How did these situations feel afterward? Were there any consequences to the relationships? Or to your own well-being?
It can be uncomfortable to face these truths or remember them. But being aware of the negative effects of a bad habit can help give you the strength to change it.
2. Learn to manage and take responsibility for your emotions
Next, we need to differentiate between being straightforward and dumping all our thoughts and feelings on others. (Picture a frazzled CEO tossing all their tasks on an assistant’s desk). Sharing your feelings with someone doesn’t make them responsible for managing them. Of course, we hope that others will receive what we’re saying with an open mind, empathy, and understanding. But even this is not a guarantee.
Becoming more straightforward is much easier when you realize your own responsibility:
- To manage your emotions or thoughts.
- To communicate them with others.
- Accept the other person’s reaction.
- Decide what to do next (if they don’t respect your boundaries, or empathize with what you’re saying).
These books have personally helped me with this, directly or indirectly:
- Constructive Wallowing by Tina Gilbertson
- Friendaholic by Elizabeth Day
- Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday
3. Keep your end goal in mind
Being straightforward is a skill with a purpose. When people say “get to the point”, there’s always something they want to hear. What did the client think? How much will the car repairs cost? And for the love of God, which restaurant do you want to go to?
You could share information with the clarity of a polished diamond, but it won’t do much good if it’s completely irrelevant.
So, what is it that you want to achieve with what you share? For example:
- Do you want to make a joint decision?
- Do you want to share your point of view?
- Do you want to understand their point of view?
- Do you want someone to understand why you’re upset with them?
- Do you want to end the relationship?
- Do you want to find a way to work things out together and come out stronger for it?
Sharing this goal at the start of the conversation can be one of the best ways to be straightforward. It tells the person straight up what to expect, and it also helps guide you to stick to that purpose.
4. Practice effective communication
Finally, the foundation of being more straightforward is effective communication. Can you articulate your ideas clearly? Can you cut out the anxiety-driven rambles and guilt-ridden excuses? Can you be mindful of how your message comes across without taking on others’ emotions? (This makes the difference between being straightforward and being blunt or tactless.)
There are tons of excellent resources on communication out there. Here are some of my personal favorites that have left a deep impact on me:
- Crucial Conversations
- Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss (a business negotiation book, but with priceless communication tips)
- Thanks for the Feedback by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen
- Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg
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I know it can be frustrating to struggle with being more straightforward. But remember this: because you know what the opposite is like, you can appreciate the change more.
One of the keys to this journey is to not try to make it too complicated. After all, that’s the world you want to untangle yourself from. Try some of the recommended books above, and you may find some ideas that click with you. And as you gain headway on this path, I’m sure you’ll find each step getting more straightforward.
Do you have a tip that I should have mentioned? Be straightforward with me and let me know in the comments below!